- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Former Gov. Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth Chief Executive Richard Scrushy were convicted yesterday in a bribery scheme that derailed Siegelman’s campaign to retake his former office.

Siegelman, 60, was accused of trading government favors for campaign donations when he was governor from 1999 to 2003 and lieutenant governor from 1995 to 1999.

Scrushy, who once ran the Birmingham-based rehabilitation chain, was accused of arranging $500,000 in donations to Siegelman’s campaign for a state lottery in exchange for a seat on a state hospital regulatory board.

The case was tried as Siegelman sought the Democratic nomination for governor, and the trial put him in court during the final weeks of the campaign. He lost to Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley in the June 6 Democratic primary and blamed the charges for his defeat.

Siegelman and Scrushy sat on the edge of their seats but showed no emotion as the verdict was read.

Siegelman and Scrushy remained in the courthouse for a hearing on appeals, bail and other matters.

“Of course I’m disappointed,” Siegelman said as he went to meet with his lawyers.

The most serious of the charges are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

Prosecutors described a “pay-to-play” scheme in which campaign donations were necessary to participate in government projects.

But defense attorneys said the case was based on the testimony of former Siegelman aide Nick Bailey, lobbyist Lanny Young and toll-bridge developer Jim Allen, who they called “scam artists and liars.”

Defense attorneys said that Young and Bailey, who have both pleaded guilty, lied on the witness stand with the hope of getting light sentences, and that Mr. Allen lied to keep from being charged.

Mr. Allen testified that he met with Siegelman during his 1998 campaign for governor, and Siegelman initially asked him for a $100,000 donation.

Later, Siegelman said, “If you would give me $40,000, I’ll let you pick the next highway director.”

Siegelman appointed to the position a man who had previously worked for Mr. Allen and, according to prosecutors, gave favorable treatment to projects that would benefit his former boss.

Prosecutors said Siegelman and his chief of staff, Paul Hamrick, received gifts, including a Honda motorcycle for the governor that they said was initially concealed from investigators. Mr. Hamrick reportedly received $25,000 for a new luxury BMW automobile.

Mr. Hamrick and former state Transportation Director Mack Roberts were acquitted on all charges.

The monthlong trial also came one year after Scrushy was acquitted of criminal charges in a massive accounting fraud scandal at his former company in Birmingham.

The jury returned the verdicts after 11 days of deliberations, convicting Siegelman and Scrushy of bribery, conspiracy and fraud. Siegelman was also convicted of obstruction of justice but was acquitted on 25 other counts, including racketeering and extortion.

Scrushy remains a defendant in major civil cases involving accusations of a $2.7 billion accounting scam at HealthSouth.

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